On the eve of his home grand prix in Melbourne, Ricciardo admits that RBR is unlikely to be any sort of match for Mercedes and Ferrari in the early campaign.
And while that effectively rules him out of the title race, the Australian says Red Bull is targeting the second half of the season as an opportunity to make a big step up, and even give the Mercedes squad a hurry up.
“This year, to be honest, it’s unrealistic [to think about the title],” Ricciardo told media in Melbourne on Wednesday morning.
“I’d love to say it’s realistic, but the fact is that Mercedes, in normal circumstances, they’ll probably win most races. At least in the first few races, we’re not really going to be in touch unless we get some rain. After five, six races [the title] will probably be out of reach.
“[But] the second half of the year, we should be able to get a lot closer. Last year we made a big step in the second half of the year, and I think where we are now is where we ended last year.
“If we make another step up this summer, the European summer, hopefully we can take some limelight away from Mercedes.”
Focus still on wins
Despite predicting Mercedes dominance early on, Ricciardo added that he still thinks winning at least one race is a realistic goal for him this season.
“Ideally this year we’ll get back in the winner’s column, and get at least one victory,” he said.
“Podiums are the start. And if I could choose to be on any podium it would be this one in Melbourne.
“I’m definitely ready if the opportunity arises. Like last year, we need to take those. We can’t leave anything standing on the track.”
No question over form
While he was only on the podium twice last season, Ricciardo says there are absolutely no question marks over whether or not he can fight for top three finishes if and when the car allows him to.
“I think the podiums last year, Singapore and Budapest, if anyone forgot, it reminded them that I’m still here to race, race hard, and race at the front,” he said.
“I’m not going to shy down at any opportunity to do that. Hopefully this year we can have more opportunities to fight for the podium, and hopefully at some point a win as well.”